Shellfish harvesting information

General reminders

Eating contaminated shellfish can be life threatening!

Always check marine biotoxin and sanitary contamination closures for the area where you are harvesting. Closures change frequently throughout the year. It is illegal to harvest shellfish from closed or contaminated areas.

Notes on specific shellfish

  • The harvesting of abalone, an endangered species in British Columbia, is prohibited. All areas are closed for conservation purposes
  • It is illegal to keep Olympia oysters
  • Be aware of permanent prawn closures in glass sponge reefs and some marine protected areas

Maa-nulth Treaty Lands

In 2006, the governments of Canada and British Columbia signed an historic agreement with the Maa-nulth First Nations. In accordance with that agreement, intertidal bivalve harvest areas in Area 23 and Area 26 are set aside for the use of Maa-nulth First Nations members only.

Fishing gear


  • Only fish offal, herring, mackerel, northern anchovy and Pacific sardine may be used as bait. No other finfish may be used as bait

Lines, traps, buoys:

marked buoy
  • All shellfish traps must be marked with a floating tag or buoy that has your name on it
  • Use highly visible buoys, large enough to stay afloat in tides and currents in your fishing area. Only one name can appear on the buoy attached to your trap(s). Names and phone numbers must be legible and visible (at least 7.5 cm high)
  • Do not use: gear marked with another fisher’s name. Avoid plastic jugs, bottles and Styrofoam blocks that may deteriorate or sink, or are hard to see or mark
  • Navigation channels must be kept clear of lines and buoys. Use sinking line and/or weights, or coil excess line to keep it below the surface during all tide levels without sinking the buoy. Any fishing gear that interferes with safe navigation can be removed under the Navigation Protection Act
  • Be aware of hook and line, downrigger and trap gear entanglement risks in the vicinity of the UVIC Venus project in Pat Bay, Saanich Inlet. For more information, visit:
  • You may use mechanical devices to recover your traps
  • You may set multiple traps on a single ground line following the line and marking requirements outlined in the table below:
Weighted line

Prevent gear entanglement

Make sure your buoy line doesn’t float and become tangled in boaters’ props. Either use sinking line or, if you use floating line, attach a weight to keep the extra line under the water at all tide levels (without sinking the buoy).

Line and marking requirements for combining traps
Single trap 1 floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.
Two traps Single ground line marked with 1 floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.
Three traps or more
Note: Max. 2 traps for crab harvesting
Single ground line. Both ends of the ground line require a floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.

Notes on specific shellfish


  • It is illegal to use any mechanical apparatus or dredge for harvesting clams
  • Clam harvesters are encouraged to fill in holes to reduce predation on exposed juvenile clams



  • You are not allowed to use sharp-pointed instruments, snares, hand pumps or chemicals to harvest octopus

Shrimp and Prawn

  • When you set your traps remember that your daily catch limit is not a fishing target and prawns are seasonally variable and short-lived. Take only what you need
  • You may harvest shrimp only by means of traps, ring nets, or spear while diving
  • The maximum number of shrimp and prawn traps you can fish is 4 (4 traps or 4 ring nets, or a combination of these).
  • A maxiumum of 4 traps is allowed on a single ground line with a floating tag or buoy required at both ends
  • 2 cm (3/4 in) mesh, or 2.5 cm (1 in.) from knot to knot, will catch a good size range of prawns and allow smaller prawns to easily escape
  • You should use rot cord on all prawn traps (this recommendation may soon become a requirement). Create an opening in the top or side wall of your trap that can be sewn shut with a single strand of untreated cotton twine no greater than #120. The opening should be large enough so that if the trap is lost and the twine rots, captive prawns are able to escape
  • Hauling your gear slowly allows smaller prawns and bycatch to exit before traps are brought on board
Catch handling

Check all your gear carefully and remove and release all bycatch. You must release incidental catch alive, to the place where you caught it, in a way that causes the least harm to the fish.



  • For conservation purposes, fishers are asked to voluntarily release prawns carrying eggs under their tail (egg-bearing females) and smaller prawns
  • Many rockfish populations are depressed and must be released from prawn traps
Packaging and transporting


Do not hang your bivalve shellfish off docks, or off the side of a vessel where travelling, as the waters you are in could be contaminated.

Bivalve shellfish

  • Bivalve shellfish that you harvest may be shucked or cooked while you’re in the field (e.g., on a beach). However, they must stay in a condition that makes them easy to count and identify until they arrive at your ordinary residence


  • So that the size of your crab can be checked, the shell of any sport-caught crab must stay attached to the body until the crab is eaten or arrives at your ordinary residence

Labelling your container or cooler

  • When individuals are transporting or shipping catch they must package their catch separately and only have one name per package. However, they may share a container. It is recommended that the contents (number of fish, species, and number of packages) be listed on the outside of the container to facilitate inspection
  • It is recommended that you store and transport your catch in containers and packages intended for food
Plan ahead: prawn closures

'Plan ahead' information is provided for reference only

Always check the area you intend to fish for regulations and restrictions before you head out. Forecast closure dates are subject to change and may not reflect current regulations.

Seasonal closures for Prawn and shrimp

Decisions are made in season. In the spring and fall we take samples to make sure there are enough spawning females in the water. Decisions about fishing closures are made based on the results of this sampling. Subscribe to the fishery notice system and we’ll send updates to your inbox.

Forecast closure dates:

Spring closures

We close recreational prawn and shrimp fishing for 1 week in May to do spawner index testing in the following areas:

FN0427 Reminder of Closures May 10 to 16, 2017

Fall pulse fishing begins

Stuart Channel, Saanich Inlet and Alberni Inlet begin "pulse fishing" (closed in the first half of the month and open in the second half of the month) the first day after Labour Day. Read our Q&A on prawn and shrimp pulse fishing for more information.

Subareas 17-5, 17-6, 17-9, 19-7 to 19-12 inclusive, and 23-1 to 23-3 are closed:

  • The first day after Labour Day to September 15
  • October 1 to October 15
  • November 1 to November 15
  • December 1 to December 15
  • "Pulse fishing" may continue for the period January 1 to March 31 depending on the results of spawner index testing that happens in the fall
Winter closures

Depending on the results of the spawner index testing in the fall, we close the following areas from January 1 - March 31 and re-open them on April 1. These 3 month winter closures protect large, mature egg-bearing females as their eggs prepare to hatch.